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  • richardmitnick 12:49 pm on January 25, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , The search for E.T.   

    From SETI Institute via SPACE.com: “‘Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence’ Needs a New Name, SETI Pioneer Says” 

    SETI Logo new
    SETI Institute



    January 25, 2018
    Calla Cofield

    Jill Tarter at the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, which was used to search for communications signals from alien civilizations.
    Credit: Acey Harper/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

    NAIC/Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico, USA, at 497 m (1,631 ft)

    Astrophysicist Jill Tarter is one of the world’s best-known leaders in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI. For 35 years, she served as the director of the Center for SETI Research (part of the SETI institute) and was also the project scientist for NASA’s SETI program, before its cancellation in 1993.

    Despite her longtime association with that four-letter acronym, Tarter says it’s time for “SETI” to be rebranded.

    At a recent meeting of the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on Astrobiology Science Strategy for the Search for Life in the Universe, held here at the University of California, Irvine, Tarter explained that the phrase “search for extraterrestrial intelligence” generates an incorrect perception of what scientists in this field are actually doing. A more appropriate title for the field, she said, would be “the search for technosignatures,” or signs of technology created by intelligent alien civilizations.

    “We need to be very careful about our language,” Tarter said during a presentation at the committee meeting on Jan. 18. “SETI is not the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. We can’t define intelligence, and we sure as hell don’t know how to detect it remotely. [SETI] … is searching for evidence of someone else’s technology. We use technology as a proxy for intelligence.

    “[The acronym] ‘SETI’ has been problematic in history, and we should just drop [it] and just continue to talk about a search for technosignatures,” she said.

    Signs of life

    What constitutes a “technosignature”? Tarter reviewed some of the possibilities that she and other SETI scientists have proposed.

    “We have a pragmatic definition for technology, which is the ability to deliberately modify an environment in ways that can be sensed over interstellar or interplanetary distances, including the unintended consequences of that modification,” Tarter said. “Life does this, but it doesn’t do it deliberately.”

    One technosignature that scientists have been actively seeking for decades is communication signals. These could include signals used by members of an alien civilization to communicate with each other or attempts to communicate with other civilizations. The SETI Institute continues to search for alien communications in radio waves, using the Allen Telescope Array.

    SETI/Allen Telescope Array situated at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles (470 km) northeast of San Francisco, California, USA, Altitude 986 m (3,235 ft)

    (Tarter was the inspiration for the main character in Carl Sagan’s novel Contact, which was adapted into a movie; in that story, aliens make contact with Earth via radio waves.) But recent SETI efforts have expanded to look for other mediums of alien communication, and SETI scientists have theorized that an interstellar civilization might use laser light to communicate.

    Laser SETI, the future of SETI Institute research

    Science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke wrote that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” which would mean that alien technology could be as mysterious and unexplainable to humans as technologies that appear in science-fiction TV shows and movies. That opens up a dauntingly large range of possibilities for what technosignatures might look like. What if an alien civilization were communicating via a mechanism that Earth-based scientists haven’t discovered yet? Would humans immediately recognize these “magical” technosignatures, or would we not see them as unnatural?

    Tarter said she prefers to focus on a slight alteration of Clarke’s prediction written by the futurist Karl Schroeder: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from nature.”

    “[The system] will be so efficient that there will be no wastage, and [it] will appear to be natural,” Tarter said. If this prediction is correct, it might also be impossible for humans to identify technosignatures from very advanced civilizations. But Tarter uses it as a jumping-off point to brainstorm how scientists might identify technologies that have not yet reached that level of sophistication.

    In the field of exoplanet science, new techniques and new instruments are increasing scientists’ ability to study exoplanets and gather information about their atmospheres and surface conditions. The central focus in that field is to find habitable planets, or planets with “unintelligent” life-forms (like plants). Tarter said those tools could also provide the opportunity to look for signs of technology that artificially alters a planet’s climate or conditions.

    “As we begin to look for exoplanets and image them, you might get an unexpected glint, [because] maybe mirrors re cooling their planet, reflecting light away from the planet,” Tarter said.

    But a technosignature wouldn’t necessarily have to be the detection of the technology itself. The artificial alteration of a planet’s climate could be revealed simply because the planet in question is too close or too far away from its parent star to have the observed climate. A star system with multiple planets that all have similarly moderate, habitable climates, despite their particular proximity to the parent star, could indicate large-scale bioengineering by an intelligent civilization, Tartar said.

    “[An alien civilization] also might want to decrease latitudinal variation in temperature; maybe they want more of their planet to be nice and cozy,” Tarter said. “It’s going to take a lot of energy to do that, but I don’t know the physics that says you can’t.”

    Into the future

    The search for technosignatures is daunting, but Tarter says now is “a really opportunistic time” for it. The field is benefiting from new instruments and a wider array of instruments. SETI scientists are often searching through large volumes of data, seeking the proverbial needle in the haystack. Artificial intelligence and artificial “neural networks” can help aid this effort by combing through this vast data to search for signals that the scientists program machines to find and also allowing “the data to tell us what kind of signals are there,” Tarter said, which increases the odds of finding an unanticipated technosignature.

    Tarter listed multiple SETI projects and initiatives that are underway around the world. The most high-profile is Breakthrough Listen, a private initiative that has funded a group of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley to utilize various telescopes to search for signs of alien communication or other possible technosignatures.

    Breakthrough Listen Project


    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    The Berkeley group has led an effort to crack the mystery of Boyajian’s star, which has exhibited a very strange pattern of dimming and brightening. A few years ago, some researchers proposed that perhaps the strange light patterns were created by an alien megastructure orbiting the star — a fantastic example of a technosignature. Though that possibility has largely been ruled out, the Breakthrough Listen researchers are still working to understand this phenomenon.

    The challenge of searching for alien technosignatures may be daunting, but Tarter remains unwavering in her optimism for the search for life beyond Earth.

    “In 2004, Craig Venter and Daniel Cohen made a really bold statement: They said the 20th century had been the century of physics, but the 21st century would be the century of biology,” Tarter said. “I think they were right, but I don’t think they were bold enough. Because I think the 21st century is going to be the century of biology on Earth and beyond.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 7:53 am on October 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , The search for E.T.   

    From Futurism: “First Contact With Extraterrestrials Might Be a Very Good Thing” 



    March 16, 2017 [Another plum comes to social media.]
    Neil C. Bhavsar

    Getty Images

    The Debate

    When many people look at the stars, they see a vast, unbound infinity that fills them with a feeling that’s difficult to describe but impossible to forget. That feeling pushes humanity to want to explore the great unknown reaches of space in the hopes of discovering that we aren’t alone in it.

    But let’s assume for one moment that extraterrestrial life does exist. Should we really be trying to contact it?

    Some view the idea of reaching out to extraterrestrials as dangerous. In fact, Stephen Hawking made a strong point against the idea of making contact by comparing it to the Native Americans’ first encounter with Christopher Columbus and the European explorers, a situation that “didn’t turn out so well” for the former civilization. Hawking went on to note that advanced alien life could be “vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”

    While that does sound like it could be a possibility, not everyone agrees with Hawking. In fact, many have equally convincing arguments in support of contact with aliens.

    Nothing to Lose

    To some, the question is a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t we want to meet other intelligent lifeforms? That’s the thought shared by the people at the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute.

    SETI Institute

    SETI/Allen Telescope Array situated at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles (470 km) northeast of San Francisco, California, USA

    Laser SETI, the future of SETI Institute research

    SETI@home, BOINC project at UC Berkeley Space Science Lab

    [Not a part of the SETI Institute.]

    In fact, SETI is now far more proactive in its search for alien life than ever before.

    Initially, the organization focused on passively looking for signals indicating signs of intelligent life, but now it is taking action in the form of METI (Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence).

    METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International has announced plans to start sending signals into space

    METI International sends greetings to specific locations in space in the hopes of alerting alien astronomers of our existence.

    Though Hawking and others worry that our interstellar friendship search will lead to the annihilation or subjugation of our species as a whole, Douglas Vakoch, the president of METI International and a professor in the Department of Clinical Psychology at the California Institute for Integral Studies, strongly disagrees with this assertion. He believes that claims that we should hide our existence as a species are unfounded. After all, we have already leaked nearly 100 years of transmissions from radio and television broadcasts as electromagnetic radiation.

    Vakoch goes on to note an inconsistency in Hawking’s reasoning. He asserts that any civilizations able to travel between stars will absolutely have the ability to pick up our “leaked” signals. By that logic, they must already be aware of our existence and are simply waiting for us to make the first move. Vakoch urges us to test the Zoo Hypothesis and the Fermi Paradox through standard peer-review methods, insisting that we target nearby star systems 20 or 30 light-years away with repeat messages to generate a testable hypothesis within a few decades.

    NASA estimates that there are 40 billion habitable planets in our galaxy. While he strongly urges caution in making first contact, even Hawking is curious as to whether any of those planets beyond our solar system host life. To that end, he has launched a $100 million initiative to seek out life.

    Breakthrough Listen Project


    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    If we ever do find extraterrestrial life, either through Hawking’s search, SETI, or any of the number of other projects in the works, we might just want to take a beat before saying “Hello.”

    See the full article here .

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    Futurism covers the breakthrough technologies and scientific discoveries that will shape humanity’s future. Our mission is to empower our readers and drive the development of these transformative technologies towards maximizing human potential.

  • richardmitnick 7:13 am on October 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , The search for E.T.   

    From New Scientist: “We still haven’t heard from aliens – here’s why we might never” 


    New Scientist

    26 April 2017 [Where did this come from? Just found in social media.]
    Leah Crane

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    THE most ambitious search so far for extraterrestrial intelligence has released its first data – and there are no aliens yet. The lack of success could be explained by the result of a new approach to calculating the likelihood of detecting alien signals. This calculation suggests we might never make contact, even if extraterrestrial life is common.

    The search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) has been active for decades.

    Drake Equation, Frank Drake, Seti Institute

    SETI Institute

    SETI/Allen Telescope Array situated at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles (470 km) northeast of San Francisco, California, USA

    SETI@home, BOINC project at UC Berkeley Space Science Lab

    Breakthrough Listen aims to be the largest, most comprehensive search ever. [Using only three telescopes? There are a lot more available.]


    Lick Automated Planet Finder telescope, Mount Hamilton, CA, USA

    GBO radio telescope, Green Bank, West Virginia, USA

    CSIRO/Parkes Observatory, located 20 kilometres north of the town of Parkes, New South Wales, Australia

    The $100 million initiative uses three of the world’s most sensitive telescopes to look for alien signals from the 1 million closest stars to Earth and the 100 closest galaxies.

    “It’s like finding a needle in a haystack,” says Seth Shostak at the SETI Institute in California. “But we don’t know how many needles are there.”

    Breakthrough Listen team members have analysed the light from 692 stars so far. They have found 11 potential alien signals, none of which remained promising after further analysis.

    “It’s the beginning of a very exciting time,” says Avi Loeb at Harvard University. “But while it’s exciting, it’s still very risky. We could find nothing.”

    That’s exactly what an assessment by Claudio Grimaldi at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne predicts.

    Most methods for calculating the likelihood of detecting alien signals start with an expected number of sources. Instead, Grimaldi started with what volume of the galaxy could be reached by alien signals, a value that requires fewer assumptions about the nature and abundance of extraterrestrial life.

    Grimaldi assumed that signals from an extraterrestrial emitter might get weaker or be blocked as they travel, so they would only cover a certain volume of space. It’s relatively simple to calculate the probability that Earth is within that space and so able to detect the signal. “Not all signals can be visible at the same time – only those that intersect with the Earth,” says Grimaldi.

    He found that even if half of our galaxy was full of alien noise, the average number of signals that we would be able to detect from Earth is less than one (Scientific Reports, doi.org/b562).

    This implies that, even if there are lots of aliens out there, we might never be able to hear from them. But some researchers take umbrage: Grimaldi’s method still requires you to plug in numbers for how far alien signals could be detectable and how long they last – neither of which is known.

    “You have to make some assumptions about what the aliens are doing in all these calculations, unfortunately, and the data set that we have with alien activity is fairly sparse,” says Shostak. Our only example of intelligent life is on Earth, and there’s little reason to expect that ET resembles us.

    But, says Loeb, extraterrestrial signals should be no harder to find than other astronomical events.

    “The question of whether you can detect a signal has nothing to do with whether it’s artificial or natural, and astronomers routinely detect lots of kinds of signals,” he says.

    “In SETI, theory is great, but observation is the gold standard,” says Douglas Vakoch, president of METI International, which aims to send messages to extraterrestrial intelligence.

    METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International has announced plans to start sending signals into space

    It’s not difficult to think up a different signal that we would be able to detect, he says.

    For example, if there were alien life at the TRAPPIST-1 planets, just 40 light years away, they wouldn’t need particularly advanced technology to contact us.

    A size comparison of the planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system, lined up in order of increasing distance from their host star. The planetary surfaces are portrayed with an artist’s impression of their potential surface features, including water, ice, and atmospheres. NASA

    The TRAPPIST-1 star, an ultracool dwarf, is orbited by seven Earth-size planets (NASA).

    It seems implausible that we would miss their call.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 2:35 pm on June 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , OSU The big Ear, The search for E.T.,   

    From Forbes: “Astronomers Still Can’t Rule Out SETI’s ‘Wow!’ Signal” 


    Forbes Magazine

    May 31, 2017
    Bruce Dorminey

    Nearly four decades after it was received, astronomers still can’t say with 100% certainty that the ‘Wow!’ signal was not an interstellar radio beacon from some far-flung extraterrestrial civilization. But the signal — which got the Wow! moniker after an astronomer first scribbled those letters in the margins of the incoming data — was never reacquired.

    Even so, Bob Dixon, Ohio State University’s (SETI) Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence program director at the time, once told me that the signal had to have at least originated at distance beyond the Moon.

    The Milky Way and the constellation of Sagittarius. Credit: Terrence Dickinson via NASA

    What is known is that the signal was received just after 11 PM local time on August 15, 1977, at OSU’s now defunct Big Ear Radio Observatory.

    Ohio State Big Ear Radio Telescope

    Its position on the sky came from the direction of the star cluster M55 in the constellation of Sagittarius. Yet more importantly, it closely-matched the narrow emission line of hydrogen at 1420 megahertz , a radio-quiet spot long touted as a potential interstellar hailing frequency for E.T. civilizations. And at the time, it was also the strongest such SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) candidate signal ever seen.

    “So, ‘Wow!’ was appropriate,” Dan Werthimer, chief scientist at the University of California at Berkeley’s SETI program, told me.

    SETI@home, BOINC project at UC Berkeley Space Science Lab

    But he says it would be more convincing if the signal had appeared one after another along the Big Ear’s two different radio observing beams.

    That, says Werthimer, would be more of an indication that it was an artificial radio beacon from an interstellar point source. But we occasionally see Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) that’s modulated in just the right way that makes it look like it is consistent with a distant point source, says Werthimer. But as he emphasizes, if the signal were really from E.T. and was in the telescope’s observing sights for at least a few minutes, the source of the signal should have moved from one beam into the other.

    “It didn’t,” said Werthimer. “So, I’m 99% confident that the signal the OSU guys saw was RFI.”

    Still, there’s another possibility and that is that the signal did originate from beyond the moon, but was produced by two active comets orbiting within our solar system. That is, within the vicinity of the ‘Wow!’ signal’s position on the sky.

    A 2015 paper published by The Washington Academy of Sciences proposed that during that summer of 1977, comets 266P/Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs) “were transiting in the neighborhood of the Chi Sagittarii star group” and produced by a large hydrogen cloud around their nucleus. Because the frequency for the ‘Wow!’ signal fell close to the radio emission for hydrogen, the paper noted that these local cometary hydrogen clouds would be strong candidates as the signal’s source.

    The comet hypothesis sounds somewhat plausible, but I still don’t buy it. If this cometary phenomena were at all statistically frequent, researchers would likely have picked up something similar over the last 50 years. And to my knowledge, this is the first time that anyone has argued that such narrowband emission is from a comet.

    My personal best guess is that the signal was not RFI. But more likely, it was the product of some very distant or unusual and/or poorly-understood astrophysical phenomenon.

    Credit: Wikipedia

    That’s not to say that E.T. isn’t out there somewhere. But the likelihood that we would only receive a lone radio beacon, that’s never repeated and could never be reacquired, also seems implausible.

    Most people can live with the fact that there may be no one out there. Some prefer the notion that we are the ultimate undiscovered country in a cosmos teeming with intelligent life. But few like the idea that we narrowly missed E.T.’s one-off phone call.

    Werthimer, however, says either the ‘Wow!’ signal’s rise and fall in strength was actually intrinsic to the signal, in which case he says it would have to be RFI. Or if the signal were from a distant source, he says, then it would be constant in power and its rise and fall in strength would be due to Earth’s rotation.

    The remote possibility that it’s the real thing is what makes the ‘Wow!’ signal so haunting . You can dismiss it as Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) until the cows come home. But as Werthimer himself reluctantly acknowledged: “We can’t rule out E.T.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 2:56 pm on December 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , The search for E.T.   

    From The Atlantic: “Fancy Math Can’t Make Aliens Real” 

    Atlantic Magazine

    The Atlantic Magazine

    Jun 17, 2016 [Where has this been?]
    Ross Andersen


    Universe map Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey
    Universe map Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey

    Inflationary Universe. NASA/WMAP
    Inflationary Universe. NASA/WMAP

    Last week [at the time of this article], The New York Times published an op-ed titled, Yes, There Have Been Aliens. As its headline suggests, the piece makes an extraordinary claim. “While we do not know if any advanced extraterrestrial civilizations currently exist in our galaxy,” its author writes, “we now have enough information to conclude that they almost certainly existed at some point in cosmic history.”

    That we could know such a thing is not inconceivable. For decades now, a small group of “interstellar archaeologists” has pored over star surveys, looking for evidence of long-dead civilizations, in the form of enormous technological structures. Reading that headline in the Times, I wondered: had one of these astronomers seen something extraordinary?

    Alas, I was disappointed.

    Adam Frank, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Rochester, wrote the essay that appeared in the Times. Frank is a gifted scientist, and a thoughtful science writer. He begins the op-ed with an enthusiastic update on the ongoing exoplanet revolution. I must confess I share his enthusiasm. I suspect that future historians of science will wonder what it was like to live in this moment. A little more than two decades ago, we weren’t sure whether there were any planets outside our solar system. Now we have reason to believe that nearly all stars host planets, and that many of them are rocky and wet like our own. No generation of humans has ever gazed up at night skies so pregnant with possibility.

    It is precisely this profusion of planets that gives Frank confidence that ours is not the first intelligent civilization. “Given what we now know about the number and orbital positions of the galaxy’s planets,” he tells us, “the degree of pessimism required to doubt the existence, at some point in time, of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization borders on the irrational.” Most of us have heard a version of this argument, late at night, around a campfire: Look at all the stars in the night sky. Is it really possible that all of their planets are sterile, and all of their predecessors, too?

    These arguments have their appeal, but it is an appeal to intuition. The simple fact is that no matter how much we wish to live in a universe that teems with life—and many of us wish quite fervently—we haven’t the slightest clue how often it evolves. Indeed, we aren’t even sure how life arose on this planet. We have our just-so stories about lightning strikes and volcanic vents, but no one has come close to duplicating abiogenesis in a lab. Nor do we know whether basic organisms reliably evolve into beings like us.

    We can’t extrapolate from our experience on this planet, because it’s only one data point. We could be the only intelligent beings in the universe, or we could be one among trillions, and either way Earth’s natural history would look the exact same. Even if we could draw some crude inferences, the takeaways might not be so reassuring. It took two billion years for simple, single-celled life to spawn our primordial lineage, the eukaryotes. And so far as we can tell, it only happened once. It took another billion years for eukaryotes to bootstrap into complex animal life, and hundreds of millions of years more for the development of language and sophisticated tool-making. And unlike the eye, or bodies with legs—adaptations that have arisen independently on many branches of life’s tree—intelligence of the spaceship-making sort has only emerged once, in all of Earth’s history. It just doesn’t seem like one of evolution’s go-to solutions.

    Frank compresses each of these important, billions-of-years-in-the-making leaps in evolution into a single “biotechnical” probability, which is meant to capture the likelihood of the whole sequence. For all we know, each step could be a highly contingent cosmic lottery win. Perhaps eukaryotes “usually” take tens of billions of years to evolve, and we lucked into an early outlier on the distribution curve. Perhaps we have been fortunate at every step of the way. Frank’s argument skips over these probabilities. Or rather, it bundles them up into a single, tidy unknown, that he can hammer with a big italicized number:

    “What our calculation revealed is that even if this probability [that technological civilization evolves] is assumed to be extremely low, the odds that we are not the first technological civilization are actually high. Specifically, unless the probability for evolving a civilization on a habitable-zone planet is less than one in 10 billion trillion, then we are not the first.”

    Absent a clear account of how often we can expect planets to spawn technological civilizations, we don’t have any way to evaluate that “10 billion trillion” number. We certainly don’t have grounds to say that the “odds are high” that some civilization preceded ours, or enough evidence to suggest that skepticism about the possibility “borders on the irrational.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:16 am on July 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , The search for E.T., Xinhua News   

    From Xinhua News: “Feature: ET, when will we see you?” 


    Xinhua News

    Lu Hui


    However, with no clues of extraterrestrial life over the past five decades, questions are constantly asked as whether the search methods are appropriate.

    Even on Earth, land and sea host completely different forms of life. “It is highly possible that life on other planets is entirely different from that on Earth, and it might not be carbon-based,” says Jin Hairong, deputy curator of Beijing Planetarium.

    Liu Cixin, a Chinese science fiction writer and winner of the Hugo Award for his novel The Three Body Problem, points out the current method assumes that aliens also communicate in radio waves. “But if it’s a truly advanced civilization, it is possible to use other more advanced forms of communication, such as gravitational waves.”

    But Mao Shude believes many methods deserve a try: “Who knows what they are and how they think?

    “When we study the origin of life, we risk going down a blind alley if we only have one sample from Earth,” Mao says. “If we could find more samples in the universe, we could look at the puzzle more comprehensively and solve it more easily.”

    He gives an example in astronomy to explain the limitations of a single sample. “When scientists started to look for planets around Sun-like stars, they thought it must be difficult as their period might be as long as a year. However, the first such planet discovered outside our solar system takes only four days to orbit its host star – much faster than astronomers expected. At that time, some people doubted it, showing how the example of our solar system narrowed their thinking.”

    “If we really discover extraterrestrial life, I’d like to know how life spreads in the universe. Is it distributed uniformly in space, or clustered?” Mao wonders.

    However, the idea communicating with aliens comes with concerns.

    British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has warned that communicating with aliens could be a threat to Earth: “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.”

    The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin depicted the universe as a jungle with every civilization as a hidden hunter. Those who are exposed will be eliminated.

    But Han Song, another leading Chinese science fiction writer, believes humans naturally want to connect, citing the Internet as proof.

    “I think aliens might think similarly. It is a biological instinct to connect with each other. Everyone wants to prove that they are not alone in the universe. Loneliness is intolerable to humans,” he says.

    He also points out that the contact will be driven by curiosity and real requirements. “Humans will ultimately go to space to find resources and expand their living area, so it will be hard to avoid aliens. Contact with them, especially those with more advanced intelligence, may help us leap forward in civilization.”

    Regardless of the theoretical debate, scientists have never wavered in the search.

    “I think we shall call out. As a matter of fact, we have been yelling for years, and our radios and televisions are broadcasting in space all the time,” Mao says, “Aren’t you curious what our counterparts would look like?

    “If they are inferior or equal to us in terms of civilization, we won’t be easily destroyed. If they are much more intelligent than us, they wouldn’t be so narrow-minded as to compete with us. Some worry they will come to rob us of our natural resources, but they likely have the power to transform the entire globe already. What’s the point of eliminating a much lower civilization?”

    Mao believes the result will be significant however it turns out. “If we find other life, it will undoubtedly be the most important scientific discovery in our history; if not, it shows that life on Earth is unique and we should respect life and cherish each other.

    “No matter the outcome, we shall never stop searching, and I hope to hear more voices and contributions from Chinese scientists.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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